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Salem police reports of hockey fight describe unruly parents, resistant coach

By RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent

September 08. 2018 9:29PM
A scuffle with police took place at a local arena in December 2017. A youth hockey coach from Massachusetts was arrested. (YouTube.com
)

SALEM - Salem Police Department accounts of a Dec. 2 incident at the ICenter that led to the arrest of a youth hockey coach paint a picture of a chaotic evening.

Coach Robert Andersen of Wilmington, Mass., is charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Two other men, John Chesna of Revere, Mass., and Christopher Albano of Reading, Mass., were arrested in May for their alleged actions at the ICenter. Chesna and Albano are facing charges, including disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and simple assault.

According to police reports released last week, Andersen violently resisted arrest. The arrests of Chesna and Albano came months later because witnesses reached out to police after a news report in April contradicted their recollection of events. With the help of witness accounts, video footage and a list of witness names given to them by Andersen's original defense team, police were able to identify Chesna and Albano.

Witnesses told police that a game was canceled early after some parents of players on the North Shore Shamrocks allegedly were disorderly in reaction to a referee's calls. Several parents and players were allegedly taunting, threatening and spitting at the referee, according to witnesses interviewed by police.

One parent, later identified as Chesna, allegedly came out onto the ice and yelled profanities at the referee. Another parent, later identified as Albano, was allegedly banging on the glass surrounding the ice rink.

A third "aggressor" in the argument who later moved into the waiting area was identified by police as James Griffin of Chelmsford, Mass. Griffin was seen involved in a screaming match with Andersen but was later released at the scene, according to police.

Ryan Dugan, a referee at the game, told police one of the angry parents challenged him to a fight and he called the game after one of them walked onto the ice.

Thomas Regan, a parent and scorekeeper, said in a statement he had never seen chaos like this at a youth hockey game in the more than 20 years he's been involved with the sport.

"I believe these parents present real risk to other teams and parents moving forward," Regan wrote in a statement shared with police.

A parent named Bill Ferris, whose child played for the opposing team, told police the Shamrocks are notorious in the league for "causing issues during hockey games."

After the game ended, the dispute continued with a group of parents in the waiting area. Police were called to the scene by ICenter employee Katie Fallon after someone came to the box office and told her things were getting out of hand.

When police arrived, Sgt. Justin Bagley repeatedly told Andersen, who had his arms raised, to step back and lower his arms, according to an affidavit. When Andersen walked toward the officer, they attempted to detain him.

"Based on what I saw, I felt that Sergeant Bagley was in danger of being assaulted by Andersen," Officer Stephen Lundquist wrote in his report.

At the time, Andersen was attempting to mediate the fight, according to multiple parents. But when police tried to detain him, Andersen resisted, according to police.

The scuffle that ensued involved two more officers who were trying to bring Andersen to the ground and handcuff him, part of which was filmed by onlookers using their cellphones.

Two officers used their Tasers a total of five times, according to an analysis of the stun guns' internal software and reports by officers. It's believed only two of those discharges had an effect on Andersen.

Andersen allegedly thrashed his body to shake off the officers and kicked one in the face, resulting in a cut on the officer's tongue. Andersen became cooperative after two sets of handcuffs were place on him, according to police.

Deputy Chief Robert Morin said the officers who detained Andersen showed restraint.

Andersen's attorney, former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney, declined to comment for this story. Delaney is currently the director of litigation at the McLane Middleton law firm.

Witnesses later told police Andersen did not instigate the earlier argument.

Albano recorded the police detaining Andersen on his phone. In the documents, police say Albano would not comply with orders to back up and at one point slapped the hand of an officer trying to control the crowd, which is why he was charged with assault.

Salem police granted the Union Leader access to the documents on Thursday after a reporter was turned away at the police station by Morin.

Morin said the town's attorney, Bart Mayer of Upton & Hatfield LLP, instructed him to let the reporter review the documents.

Morin said he doesn't agree with releasing the documents because the criminal cases are still being adjudicated, and he echoed fears expressed by prosecutors that the cases will be tried in the media.

"It's not our job to impugn people's character," Morin said.

But he said the police department didn't ask for a gag order, which was recently lifted by Superior Court Judge Andy Schulman. The gag order made it impossible to defend the actions of police when the department was taking "punch after punch" in the press, Morin said.

"We were hamstrung. We could not make a comment," he said.

After the arrests of Chesna and Albano, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said they were investigating the police for possible witness intimidation.

Morin said that narrative is false. After the first news story, several witnesses reached out to the police and contradicted what the parents said, singling out Chesna and Albano as troublemakers. Morin said five parents provided written statements.

"It's not retaliatory on our part at all," Morin said.

The ACLU's Gilles Bissonnette said he has still not seen the documents. He has requested the town waive the $56.50 fee for a copy, but said as of Friday he had not yet received a response from Mayer.

Andersen's trial is set for May 2019. Chesna has a court hearing on Nov. 14 and Albano's lawyer said they will likely have a trial in January 2019.

ldnews@unionleader.com


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